Alaska is big: It’s the largest state in the United States, almost twice the size of Texas and even larger than the next three largest states combined. So, when you visit, it may feel like a daunting task to see all of it: the wilderness, the wildlife, the mountains, the glaciers …

That’s why cruisetours are one of the best ways to experience Alaska. These double-duty vacations combine a guided land tour with a cruise, allowing you to explore both Alaska’s coastline and interior.

Plus, depending on where you’re traveling from, you’ll want to make the most of your travel time. “If you’re going to go the distance to experience Alaska, you should have the big experience that’s part of a cruisetour,” says Brendan Halcomb, Royal Caribbean Alaska enthusiast and sales manager.

From seascapes to mountain tops, here’s how cruisetours with AAA travel partner Royal Caribbean can give you a complete Alaska adventure:

Experience wilderness

On a cruisetour, you get VIP access to Alaska’s wilderness. For example, in Denali National Park and Preserve, there’s only one road—ending in Kantishna—with restricted access in place to protect the park’s well-preserved character. A cruisetour can take you there to see Alaska’s low valley forests, high mountain passes and open tundra covered with wildflowers, ferns, mosses and wild berries.

You don’t even have to be on land to experience wilderness. Brendan says you can see it from the ports, especially in the afternoon. Ketchikan, a port situated on the shores of the Tongass Narrows, offers views of 1,000-foot waterfalls, forests and the seascapes of Misty Fjords National Monument.

And in Kantishna, you can hike to nearby Wonder Lake for uninterrupted views of “The Great One” (Denali) or mountain bike on old mining roads to fly-fish, see sled dogs and pan for gold.

There’s no better way to see Alaska’s wilderness than with a local adventure specialist leading the way. “They live it, love it and know it,” says Halcomb. “They’re introducing you to their Alaska.”

Experience wildlife

Alaska has the “Big Five”: grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolves and Dall sheep. And on a cruisetour, you have the opportunity to see them all. In Denali National Park and Preserve, all five reside with red foxes, arctic squirrels and more than 160 species of birds that migrate during the summer.

A stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Alyeska reveals native animals that have been orphaned, injured or displaced—all under expert care to be reintroduced to the Alaskan wild. Animals vary by season, but you’ll definitely see bears with a chance of caribou, moose calves, fawns, porcupines, birds and lynx.

Further south, wildlife flourishes in the port of Seward with its jagged cliffs, forested mountains and surrounding glaciers. There, you can take the Resurrection Bay Wildlife Cruise to get close to the shore and see sea otters, sea lions and whales—with puffins, Dall sheep and seabirds sitting nearby. Then, head to the Alaska SeaLife Center to learn more about harbor seals, coho salmon, wolf eels, and even Pacific octopus and red king crab. You may get to see a feeding of one of these animals, too.

Oh, and we can’t forget to mention Alaska’s Inside Passage, where you can see wildlife along the protected waterway.

Experience mountains

The tallest peak in North America, Denali provides an elevated mountainous experience. To get the best views possible, plan on a two- or three-day visit at the park to improve your chances of seeing the Great One—or look to cruisetours, which can help you fly to the remote end of the national park to see the three biggest mountains of the Alaska Range.

You can even board the Wilderness Express train to Denali, which has a glass-domed upper level where you can sit back and relax while taking in unobstructed views of spectacular scenery. And when you’re ready for some R&R, unwind at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, with its panoramic views of Denali and the Alaska Range.

Seeking adventure? If it’s a clear day, a trip to Fairbanks is key to see extended views of the Alaska Range and the White Mountains. At night in late August, you may even glimpse the northern lights.

On your cruisetour’s stop in Skagway, witness the bordering snowcapped Coast Mountains by riding the vintage White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad with views of the original mountain trail. And in Alaska’s capital, even more mountainous views are at Mount Juneau, which can only be reached by boat, ship or plane.

Experience glaciers

Speaking of Juneau, a cruisetour can take you to the Juneau Icefields and the vast Mendenhall Glacier. But when in Alaska, there’s one glacier you have to see: Hubbard.

Although most glaciers today are slowly melting, the Hubbard Glacier is the exception. The continent’s longest tidewater glacier, Hubbard is actually growing. It currently stretches more than 70 miles, and is about 350 feet tall and seven miles across. And if you’re traveling by cruisetour, you can get an up-close view of its sheets of blue and how it’s reshaping the regions that surround it.

And that’s not all. Cruisetours take glacier gazing in Alaska to the next level by also providing access to the Kahiltna Glacier, the longest glacier in the Alaska Range. An aerial tour takes you over the glacier’s south fork. And near Seward is Kenai Fjords National Park, where more than half of the park’s land is frozen and covered by snow, glaciers and the massive Harding Icefield.

Elevate Your Alaska Experience

See how AAA and Royal Caribbean can help you plan the ultimate trip to Alaska. A local travel advisor can even make sure you take advantage of exclusive perks for AAA Members.

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